Fenway Park fans don't bug Hernandez; Actions tame compared with Cuba's rocks, tomatoes; ALCS notebook


BOSTON -- When New York Yankees right-hander Orlando Hernandez says a hostile crowd at Fenway Park won't bother him during tonight's Game 5 start, he's not just putting up a brave front. Hernandez knows tough crowds. This one, no matter how vocal, won't compare to what he endured in Cuba.

"It used to be a little bit worse," he said through an interpreter, first base coach Jose Cardenal.

A little bit?

"They throw rocks, to tomatoes, to anything they can find on the field," he said.

"If you win, the opposite fans, they're going to try to beat you any way they can. Then if you lose, your own fans are going to try to kill you. So it's one way or another. We don't have no choice."

It makes even the Bronx seem tame by comparison.

Hernandez can close out the American League Championship Series with a win tonight. He's been tough this time of year, going 3-0 with a 0.97 ERA in four career postseason starts. The Red Sox managed two earned runs against him in eight innings in Game 1 of the ALCS, though Hernandez didn't get the decision.

"I'm going to try to do the same thing as before. I don't want to change nothing," he said.

Hernandez will be opposed by former Oriole Kent Mercker, who has lasted just 5 2/3 innings in two postseason starts. Opponents are batting .375 against him.

"I don't approach it that I want to go seven, eight or nine innings. I go one out at a time," said the left-hander.

Mercker began the season in St. Louis before being dealt to Boston to assist in its drive toward the wild card.

"That was one of the best days of my life, when I found out I had been traded here," he said. "I went from fourth place to first place. As a player, that's what you look for."

Strawberry replaces Davis

Yankees manager Joe Torre changed designated hitters last night, starting Darryl Strawberry over Chili Davis, who was hitting .091 (1-for-11) with five strikeouts in the postseason.

"I have no rhyme or reason, just a feel," Torre said before the game. "Chili is struggling right now. And to me, Darryl's a force. One thing Darryl gives you is the threat of a home run. And we might need a boom tonight."

His words proved prophetic as Strawberry homered in his first at-bat to give New York a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning.

Shrugging off pain

Looking at the postseason numbers being put up by Nomar Garciaparra, it's easy to forget the Boston shortstop is playing with a sore wrist.

The Yankees haven't seen much proof of it.

Remember when Garciaparra was hit by a pitch from Orioles reliever Al Reyes on Sept. 25, and the ensuing panic that swept through Beantown? Though still dealing with the pain, Garciaparra is batting .438 with three doubles, four homers and nine RBIs during the playoffs.

While Pedro Martinez garnered most of the attention in Game 3 for striking out 12 in seven innings to decisively win the duel with Roger Clemens, Garciaparra was busy going 4-for-5 with a double, homer and three RBIs. He also made another leaping catch of a line drive, which has become a daily occurrence.

"I give a lot of credit certainly to the young man," said manager Jimy Williams, "but our trainers they have two different bandages for him for his wrist. One when he's hitting and then a different one for when he takes the field. That's why he's a little bit later than the rest of the guys going out on the field."

Torre stays the course

Though he was fired by three teams before building Hall of Fame credentials in New York, Torre said he hasn't changed as a manager. His approach remains basically the same. It's the results that are so much different.

"I like to give responsibility to the players and have them just try and find out how important things are to them and give them goals to work toward," he said. "I think I'm the same person."

Pub Date: 10/18/99

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